By Will Bashur
Santa Barbara continued to steamroll through CCL competition on Friday, handling the Conejo Oaks with ease on their way to a 9-3 victory. Six Foresters tallied multi-hit games, with Eric Kennedy and Spencer Jones pacing the Santa Barbara offense with a combined six hits, two RBIs, and four runs scored.
While the ’Sters provided nearly all the fireworks, the Oaks were the first to strike.
In the first, Raul Sandoval picked up the first Conejo hit with a one-out single up the middle. Jacob Castro followed with a single of his own, and cleanup man Ryne Yamashiro was plunked in the back by a Ryan Bergert fastball, quickly loading the bases. Second baseman Tyler Odekirk hit a sacrifice fly to center, driving in Sandoval to put the Oaks on top, 1-0.
After being held in check for two straight innings by Oaks starter Eric Ma, Santa Barbara’s bats broke out to score runs in six consecutive frames.
The scoring streak started in the third when Ryan Cash hit a booming double into the right-center gap. Kennedy laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt, allowing Cash to advance to third. Two pitches later, a Ma changeup went right between the legs of the catcher Castro, enabling Cash to trot home on the passed ball and tying the game at 1-1.
The ’Sters tacked on two more runs in the fourth when Jones began the inning with a solid single. After Jones stole second, Ross Cadena hit a deep fly ball to center, allowing Jones to tag up and advance to third. Blake Hall smashed a ball into the gap and initially appeared to be coasting into second with a standup double. But Hall had different intentions and decided to test the arm of the Oaks’ defenders as he sprinted for third. As the tag at third was being applied, the Oral Roberts right fielder contorted his body like a Cirque de Soleil acrobat, evading the tag and safely arriving at third with a triple. Hall’s great piece of hitting also scored Jones, giving the Foresters their first lead of the game, 2-1. Connor Pavolony hit a sacrifice fly to center, driving in Hall and extending the lead to 3-1.
The fifth and six innings saw the ’Sters put up four more runs on the board, with Jones, Cash, and Quentin Selma all recording RBI knocks. Jones and Cash drove in one apiece with singles, and Selma drove in two with a double into the left field corner. At the end of six, the Foresters were riding a comfortable 7-1 cushion.
The hit parade continued in the seventh when Jones tallied his third hit of the afternoon with a looping double to left. After Cadena and Hall were retired, Pavolony hit a routine ground ball to the shortstop Gabe Baldovino. Baldovino scooped up the grounder but spiked the throw to first, allowing Jones to stroll home and give Santa Barbara an 8-1 advantage.
Conejo finally responded in the latter half of the seventh due to a pair of Forester miscues. The trouble began when Kennedy dropped a fly ball, putting Baldovino on second with just one out. After a Sandoval ground ball moved Baldovino to third, Santa Barbara reliever Conner Words threw a wild pitch, allowing Baldovino to score and decrease the deficit to 8-2.
But Santa Barbara quickly stole the run back in the eighth when Kennedy uncorked a 2-2 fastball from Oaks reliever Charlie Beilenson. The home run was Kennedy’s third of the summer, giving the ’Sters a 9-2 lead.
The Oaks went on to score another run in the bottom of the eighth off a Will Picketts single, but they were never able to mount a substantial comeback.
Brad Demco entered in the ninth and continued his marvelous summer with another dominant performance, striking out two Oaks to close the book on the 9-3 Forester victory.
Santa Barbara will return home Saturday to take on the Arroyo Seco Saints. Be sure to tune into AM 1290 to catch all the action.